Three Leadership Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

Sean Galli

You’ve likely seen the graphic showing two people near a mountaintop. One person proudly reaches the top and doesn’t bother helping lower climbers. The second individual doesn’t quite get to the top of the mountain but outstretches a hand to those still behind so others reach his level.

The first is a manager. The second is a leader. This concept is easy enough to understand. Yet, forming your middle managers into leaders still seems elusive. Why?

Because prioritize the technical over the personal.

We expect technical perfection but forget about the person behind the task.

We don’t consider the real reasons a team should want to follow their manager.

As motivational speaker Zig Ziglar said, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”

Below are three leadership pitfalls probably hindering your credit union or community bank, plus ways to avoid them:

Leadership Pitfall #1: Clumsy Communication

Clumsy or nonexistent communication kills effective leadership.

In December 2021, Better.com, an online mortgage originator, made the news when the CEO fired 900 employees over a surprise Zoom meeting. This move devastated the company’s reputation. Employees and the public condemned Better.com’s “callous” executives.

Better.com fell prey to poor communication.

Your middle managers fall into the same trap. Directives are vague. Emails convey inconsistent messages. Staff don’t hear a peep from their manager regarding important issues.

Solution: Clarity, Consistency and Constancy

Good leadership is like a good brand. Its communication is clear, consistent and constant.

A leader clearly conveys what they expect from employees and avoids surprises as much as possible. Leadership philosophy remains consistent and others know what your middle managers represent. Outlined expectations constantly reach employees’ ears.

Leadership Pitfall #2: Correcting Others Incorrectly

Correcting wayward followers is a part of every leader’s job.

However, we inflate criticism and cheapen praise. “You did great but need improvement in areas one, two and three.”

Necessary feedback from your middle managers becomes burdensome. Correction is a negative term rather than a synonym for growth.

Solution: Praise and Build

In “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” author Dale Carnegie encourages leaders to make correction an extension of praise. Change your language from “but” to “and." “You did great AND your great work will contribute to further improvement.”

Correction is a learning opportunity. Encourage your leaders to present it as such.

Leadership Pitfall #3: Sidelining Your Successors

Sidelining potential replacements is a strong temptation. After all, this protects your middle managers’ coveted positions. Right?

Your managers don’t mentor staff because they fear losing relevance. Everyone wants to be important.

This fear-based mentality keeps your team in their lane. Nobody grows. Nobody learns.

Solution: Bolstering Your Successors

A leader makes time to develop their direct reports. Ideally, your middle manager trains people to replace them because at some point that manager will move up.

If your staff wants growth, then your leaders must enable growth so current direct reports will be excellent middle managers in the future.

Your middle managers should pull people up once they reach the mountaintop.

For more help developing your middle managers into leaders, contact us about On the Mark Strategies’ leadership training.

Sean Galli
Copywriter
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